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The National Pilot

4 out of 5 Indigenous Australians aged 50 to 74 are missing out on a simple test that could save their life.

Bowel screening can help detect changes to the bowel early, (with a simple test that detects blood in the poo), long before a patient notices any signs.

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP) offers free bowel screening to Australians aged 50-74. Bowel screening kits are mailed directly to eligible people who have been identified from Medicare or Department of Veterans’ Affairs records.

The participation rate of Indigenous people in the NBCSP is estimated at 19.5 per cent, compared to 42.7 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians.

An Alternative Pathway for the NBCSP is being piloted to encourage more Indigenous Australians to do the bowel screening test, find bowel changes early and save lives.

The Pilot will allow primary health care services to offer NBCSP screening kits directly to their Indigenous patients.

Ten facts you need to know about the National Pilot

  1. Only about 19.5% of eligible Indigenous Australians take part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program (NBCSP), compared to 42.7% of non-Indigenous Australians.

  2. The National Pilot will allow primary health care centres to distribute NBCSP kits directly to their Indigenous patients aged 50 to 74, helping to address many of the barriers to bowel screening.

  3. The aim is to increase the participation rate of eligible Indigenous Australians in the NBCSP. This will be measured by comparing the participation rate generated through health centres in the Pilot with the national estimate of Indigenous participation in the program (19.5%).

  4. To take part, health centres needed to apply and demonstrate that they can manage relevant quality and safety issues.

  5. Around 50 health centres were accepted to take part. After a 2-3 month planning and preparation phase, health centres will give out kits to their eligible patients for 12 months.

  6. Health centre staff will provide details of screening participation to the NBCSP Register through a secure online SmartForm.

  7. The National Pilot provides training opportunities about bowel cancer and bowel screening, and ways of talking about bowel screening with Indigenous patients. This training can be counted towards informal Continuing Professional Development points.

  8. The National Pilot has been approved by Human Research Ethics Committees in the Northern Territory (Top End), South Australia, New South Wales and Western Australia. Further approvals will be sought if required, depending on the locations of health centres that want to take part.

  9. Health centres will be allocated randomly into one of two groups for the National Pilot. Group A will receive a low intensity level of support from the Menzies Project Team, and Group B will receive a more intensive level of support. The main difference is that Group A will not be provided with face to face training at the start of the Pilot, and will not receive visits or phone calls initiated by the Project Team, whereas Group B will receive these before and during the Pilot. Both groups will have access to an online training module, a Helpline, and receive a package of electronic and printed materials that include implementation, training and promotional resources. This randomisation will help assess the level of support needed by health centres of varying size and location.

  10. Bowel screening is a highly cost-effective public health initiative, particularly as the costs of treating advanced cases of bowel cancer continue to increase. The NBCSP is expected to save at least 59,000 lives and prevent 92,000 cases of bowel cancer in Australia over the next two decades.

Like to know more?

You can visit our frequently asked questions page or click on one of the questions below.

How does bowel screening help save lives?
What is an ‘Alternative Pathway’ and why is it needed?
What do we know about barriers to bowel screening for Indigenous Australians?
About the National Pilot
Who can apply to take part?
What are the eligibility criteria for health centres to take part?
How was the project initiated?
Who is conducting the project?
How have Indigenous communities and other stakeholders been involved?
What will health centres need to do before they can offer bowel screening kits to their patients?
What will health centres need to do during the National Pilot?
What are the benefits of taking part?
Why will some health centres receive a different level of support than others?
Does the National Pilot have ethics approval?
Who should I contact if I have any questions or complaints?



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